Student Loan Forgiveness, Who Does It Impact?

Do students like me deserve student loan debt relief?


Graphic by Zainab Imam

The White House recently announced a plan to cancel student debt for qualified borrowers

Devin Oommen, Staff Writer

As a student who has federal student loan debt, I felt a wave of relief come over me when I saw the announcement from President Joe Biden announcing a plan to erase up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for qualified borrowers. 

“Both of these targeted actions are for families who need it the most: working and middle class people hit especially hard during the pandemic,” Biden said during his announcement at the White House.

Individuals who qualify for loan relief are those with annual incomes of less than $125,000 or, if married, joint incomes of less than $250,000. Borrowers who qualified for a Pell Grant are able to have up to $20,000 forgiven. Those who are not or were not eligible for a Pell Grant are eligible for up to $10,000 in loan forgiveness. 

I’m a non-traditional student at COD, and I took out student loans when I was a younger student and was attending a much more expensive university. I’ve seen a lot of arguments saying people should not take out student loans that they will not be able to pay for.

However, when the government gives out loans, they are speculating that students will be able to pay them back. In some cases, like mine, students are not able to finish school as planned or to find jobs that allow them to pay back their loans.

After I took out my own loan I was not able to complete my degree for personal reasons. Instead, I worked in several different jobs. I worked in an Amazon warehouse. I installed cable for Comcast, and I also worked as a software tester. Currently, I work as many hours as I can for Amazon Flex and DoorDash in between getting school work done. 

In my case, and for students like me, the loans I took out in the past can interfere with my ability to receive the aid required to complete a degree. Until I’m able to get a job that pays a high enough salary to cover my personal expenses and debt, I am only able to pay for one or the other. 

That is not to say that I live an extravagant lifestyle. Most of the money I make goes towards basic expenses like food and gas as well as some of the costs associated with being a student, ie. textbooks. I even canceled all my subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and also to Amazon Prime. Since I spend a lot of time in my car, the one service I allow myself to indulge in is Spotify Premium.  

According to Nishia Ikezoe Heard, senior director of student financial assistance at COD, on average, COD awards $12 million per year in federal loans to about 2,700 students. A student who needs to take out federal loans borrows an average of $4,700 per year. Students who have questions about their eligibility for loan forgiveness should reach out to their loan servicer. After loans are disbursed they are passed from the college to loan servicers. A loan servicer is a company or financial institution that handles the billing and services for a loan on behalf of the government. Students can visit this website to find more information about loan servicers and how to find out who their loan servicer is. 

“It’ll have a tremendous impact on a lot of students,” Heard said. “These numbers that we’re looking at for our average borrower at COD, this isn’t too far out of alignment with a lot of other community colleges, a lot of colleges in general.”

The Department of Education also announced plans to assist borrowers whose loans went into default before the pandemic. The “Fresh Start” initiative is a program that will allow borrowers who are in default to get out of default status and to become eligible to receive financial aid again. Students can subscribe to receive updates about the loan relief program by visiting this website, entering their email address, check “NEW!! Federal Student Loan Borrower Updates,” check consent at the bottom of the page and clicking the “next” button.

I definitely am planning to apply for debt relief. After taking out these loans years ago, they have gone into default at different times. With these loans no longer affecting my credit score or impacting my ability to get more aid to finish my degree(s), I’m hoping I’ll be able to work less and be able to concentrate more on school. If, in the future, after I have started my career the government decides to cancel more student loan debt, it will be OK with me. I’ll be glad I’m able to help students who might be in the same situation as me move toward financial stability. 

Students who want to find more information about the student debt relief program should visit this link.